I love Halloween, but I had a hard time getting into the spirit this year. That is, until I went to the Swedish cult-metal band Ghost’s concert at the Murat Theatre in Old National Centre. Although the sold-out show wasn’t Halloween-themed, there was definitely an occult-like vibe going vis-à-vis the concertgoers in goth costumes, the IV bags filled with a blood-red adult beverage, the misty, cathedral-themed stage setup, the masked and costumed band members, and the incredibly intense, theatrical performance.
Indianapolis was the fourth stop on Ghost’s massive, North American “A Pale Tour Named Death” tour, which began in Tulsa, OK and will end in Brooklyn, NY. Like their prior tours, Ghost had no opening act, choosing instead to play two full sets themselves, with an intermission in between. Unlike their previous tours, however, the Papa Emeritus, the on-stage persona of frontman Tobias Forge, was not present, having been “retired” in an unexpected and dramatic way earlier this fall. In his place was the simply-garbed but equally commanding Cardinal Copia. It’s kind of hard to explain the hold Cardinal Copia has on the audience members; maybe it’s his confident, even arrogant stance, his imperious gaze that seems to pierce your soul, or way he effortlessly moves in and out of the spotlight while the Nameless Ghouls work their musical magic. Whatever it is, the man is an amazing entertainer who knows how to work a crowd.
The horde of masked Nameless Ghouls who accompanied Cardinal Copia on guitars, bass, percussion, and keyboards are also skilled musicians, of course. Although there was some thrashing and impressive jumping (it was a metal show, after all), there was also a good deal of skillfully executed, melodic music. By opening with “Ashes” and “Rats,” Ghost got the audience good and hyped, which seemed to amplify the power of the music throughout the show. The double set provided the band a great way to showcase their range of styles, from the super-heavy “Mummy Dust” and “Year Zero” to the almost-pop “Square Hammer” and their latest single, “Dance Macabre.” Although surely the band was even more exhausted than the fervent fans after performing for over two hours, they returned to play “Monstrance Clock.” If you listen to the lyrics of this dirge-like anthem, you’ll understand why it’s become their signature encore song. Not only is it a song of unity, it’s also a call to action, and a brilliant way to end a dramatic, engaging show.